Write whatever you want in the 'comments' section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds ... no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play.
I know what you’re feeling. I know those sly delusions that slip through the cracks in your window panes, ceilings. They smell like sulfur, steeped in pain. I know you didn’t mean to hurt anyone. Who could have foreseen this? Who could have guessed you’d steer us toward such disaster?
They asked the boy what he wanted to be called, and he said he didn’t want to be called anything. He wanted to be left alone. I know how that feels – to hear that, to feel the rage explode inside you until you find yourself panting, everyone staring like you’re insane.
I know what it feels like when you see what you did and you see yourself like they see you. I don’t know why I couldn’t be a happy boy. I don’t know why, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. I know exactly how it feels.
You hear it forever. That’s something you don’t see coming. I expected there were things I would always see, but I didn’t know about the sounds. How they would come in the still, dark hours to claw and tear. I know how you’re feeling.
The blood is slick on the Bowie’s handle and you pull with all your strength. No purchase. Blood and suction. I know exactly how it feels.
#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back...#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back...
So I moved on from Norman Bates and browsed the dating site and found what seemed like a nice guy. I messaged him and we started to email one another. He seemed nice and I thought what could go wrong (I was being optimistic)? We talked for about two weeks. He was out of town visiting his son. He sent me pictures of the ocean and emailed almost everyday. He finally returned from his trip and we decided to meet.ReplyDelete
We met for dinner, but he had already eaten AT HIS EX-WIFE’S HOUSE. I thought well maybe they get along and good for him. I ordered some soup and ate. Trying not to talk with my mouth full I managed to have a nice conversation with him. We talked about his ex-wife and how they broke up. I talked about my ex and how we weren’t on speaking terms. I talked about my kids and he talked about his kids. He was super nice. But, he had a confession; he wasn’t 48 like he said on his profile. He was 66. He looked good I have to admit. He was middle-eastern and worked for a high security facility. I thought well I can deal with that.
We said good bye and I went home thinking that he would call or text but I didn’t hear from him for about a month. I wondered what I had done wrong. Was it really me? Could I have done something different? Did I talk to much? Didn’t I talk enough? I finally let it go. And decided that I needed to move on. I had been on the dating site the whole time (never put your eggs in one basket) but still.
Well I went out and had a good time with a few other people, when I got a text for him. WTF??? Was he dead or something? Nope. It was a religion thing. He was observing Ramadan. This religious event is a month long; engaging in any kind of bodily pleasures is forbidden. I ended up sleeping with him but it was more climatic for him than me.
About a month later I heard from him. He said his mother had gotten sick and he couldn’t’ contact me. I’m like whatever!!! I don’t need to be dragged down by that kind of negativity. Besides, I had moved on to the fireman.
The adventure continues...wait. Fireman?Delete
ohhh.... a fireman! What an adventure!Delete
The light through his studio windows is a uniform shade of gray, diffused by fog. It calls for more coffee, another log on the fire. He leaves his door open now so he can feel the woodstove’s heat; closing it was a precaution for Ruthie, as sometimes the chemicals would make her ill. Even though the ventilation is better now and the paint thinner less toxic, it’s a habit he learned to shake. The door was a barrier, good and bad, compartmentalizing him from the household—the ringing phone, the visitors, the jangling of activity in the kitchen. He did like when Ruthie and Miriam got to laughing about something. It made him smile even if he didn’t know the joke. Even if it was at his expense. Lord knows they deserved to laugh. He might have laughed too.
He’s learning not to take himself so seriously. That, he chalks up to the indignities of age, the losses he’s borne, the realization that his ball of string is spooling out faster and faster and nothing—no fury of painting, no good works, no making of amends—can slow its inevitable end. He hears people comfort each other about finally getting to see deceased loved ones, but he doesn’t believe it works like that. He believes death is like the flipping of a switch. The light is off, and you are no more.
The mountains are shrouded in mist yet their rounded peaks protrude here and there. It’s an interesting vision, as if they are humps of a sea monster above pale, pale water. He’s holding this image in his mind when there’s a knock on the front door.
The knock is Trudy Maxwell. He smiles before he can catch himself, before he can form the scowl of someone spooling out more of his string. It’s a firm but not alarmed bang-bang; the request of someone who knows not to ring the bell (that would be too intrusive) but knows the person she seeks is at the other end of the house.
She has a big smile, an electric-blue raincoat, and his mail.
Wyeth scrambles over for ear scratches. Few things make him move so fast. The offer of a slice of bacon, and attention from Trudy. Even Miriam’s arrival doesn’t excite him as much.
“Come on, Dad,” Miri once said, joking with him. “How bad can she be if Wyeth thinks she’s as good as bacon?”
“Sorry, I hope I didn’t disturb you,” Trudy says.
“No, it’s no trouble,” he answers. A white lie. But what is he to do, put an “open” sign on his front door when he’s not painting? “I was just about to make coffee. Come in. Nasty out there, seems like.”
He takes the mail from her with the hand that’s not supporting his cane.
There’s a letter from a gallery in Manhattan. He sighs. He knows what’s inside.
“Bad news?” She’s already out of her coat and is making the coffee, bustling about, knowing where everything is in that kitchen down to the plastic bags and toothpicks. She probably knows more about his kitchen than he does, and underneath his confused annoyance, he finds that a comfort. Her hair is puffed out with the humidity, a cloud of faded auburn around her smiling face. He can tell from looking at a face what sort of life a person has had. Which lines are from frowning, sorrow, loss…which are from smiling. She has smile lines, despite her many losses. Like the sun poking out through the rain. The tops of the mountains asserting themselves in the fog bank. You’re a fool, he tells himself. Wyeth would not be so enthusiastic about a woman he didn’t like. He tries to apply the same test to Ruthie. But then they were already together when Wyeth came as a pup. They were all accustomed to each other.
You’re still a fool, he tells himself, setting down the letter, hobbling into the kitchen after her. He remembers he still has one of her cakes in the freezer. It might be nice with the coffee.
She already has it out and in the oven.
“It’s that fellow who keeps chasing me around. The one who owns the gallery. Here in town, and another in Manhattan.”
Her eyebrows rise a bit at the inner corners, spelling confusion. He elaborates. “He’s been after me with this grand and ridiculous idea for a retrospective.”
“Well. I think that might be nice. Educational. To see how your painting has evolved over the years.”
He tries to think of a way to refute her without sounding like a bitter old shit. Then he stops trying. “Feh.” He takes the mugs from the shelf then lowers his bent body to a kitchen chair upholstered in pea-green vinyl. The whole set a housewarming gift from Ruthie’s parents, back a few decades when this kind of décor for eat-in kitchens was all the rage. Everything pea-green or pink, in vinyl and Formica and chrome, like a train-car diner.
“I’m guessing you don’t want to do this.” Trudy flicks the switch on the coffee maker and sits beside him. Her face is powdered and rosy, her eyes bright with curiosity and compassion in equal measure. Wyeth leans his head against her leg and she strokes his soft, russet ear.
Eugene can almost hear his faithful friend’s thoughts. “Her,” Wyeth is thinking. “She is for us. Why haven’t you figured this out yet?”
“She brings you cookies,” Eugene responds in their shared language. “So I will not take your relationship advice, with all due respect.”
Then he grows aware that Trudy is waiting for an answer. Blood flushes warm into his face. “I have no desire to parade out my ‘body of work’ like some kind of visual obituary. Miriam can do whatever she likes when I’m gone, but now…no.”
Trudy exhales a long breath. Then her smile returns. More gentle, with a touch on his hand. “I get that, I do. But wouldn’t it be, maybe a little gratifying, to see people appreciating what you’ve done?”
He can’t think of a good answer, and an unexpected anger rises within him, and he knows whatever words come out next will be rude. He hears Ruthie’s voice, telling him to be patient and kind, that Trudy means well and good neighbors are a mitzvah.
“I’ll think about it,” he says finally. “I will probably still say no, but… I’ll think about it.”
Ah, I'm so glad you're writing about these characters again... I love them, and I love your ability to let us know them from the outside in, and then the inside out. Well told.Delete
“All that happened after was predicated on before.”ReplyDelete
I came upon the group gathered in the blue twilight, silhouetted atop a ridge, the half moon rising behind them. The coming night crept in silently, and the gathering was silent too. A gentle scene, though I knew if they saw me they would kill me. Without words they stayed awhile, lingering in the quiet grain of the air, and I held my place below, hidden by a great stone and a small grove of aspen, whose song was muted by the absence of any wind. This was dry land, and no rains came that night either.
Why did I linger? That’s simple; I needed something from them. But no, truer still—they had something of mine, and I wouldn’t be leaving till I could balance that ledger at last.
When they left the bluff, filing down a narrow rocky trail on its flank, I stayed in place until they’d returned to their camp. Then I climbed the trail myself in the vast silence of that star-blessed night. It took less than a minute to find my daughter’s footprint in the soft dirt, the extra toe on her right foot a private sigil.
“On the nature of daylight.”
This world. It’s sumptuous. It’s freighted. Wherever you can, cook things in the surplus juices of the last ingredient.
Once I knew she was there, I closed in the next dusk. Waited a long moment.
Soon, she wandered near the perimeter and I hissed our reptile code, and she stopped in her tracks and hissed back after a beat and came to me.
“I found you,” I said.
“You did,” she whispered.
The horizon crackled with something bright and infected.
“Ready to leave?” I asked.
When she didn’t reply, my heart skipped two full beats, and something buzzed in my brain pan. I repeated my question, and she still didn’t say a thing, her foot with the extra toe dug into the sandy dirt.
I looked at her face and willed her great brown eyes to stay open and gaze at mine, and I give her credit, because she made sure they did. Respect is a strange animal; I felt it steal into the clearing of my heart and force hope into the crowding bush, while love crouched unmolested. I sort of got it. I knew that loss and grief were thunderheads amassing in hostile ranks beyond the next ridge and the next, someplace way ahead maybe, but awaiting me nonetheless.
I didn’t even know what sound to make. I brushed her small and bony hand with my own tentative reach, like the soft and flickering wings of a moth, and something happened inside my chest, and I saw tears fall in small beads from those nut brown eyes, and I left, and I never looked back, though I wanted to look and squeeze with the entirety of my raw, shrinking heart.
The others could have discovered and hunted me down and impaled me on a spit and turned me over flame for hours, and I wouldn’t have cared, but I was not followed.
Goodbye. O my dear fierce girl, farewell.
Why do we come here? Better yet, why do we stay? For the light and shadow at play on a woman’s hands. For the nighttime murmur of a dreaming child. For the boughs laden, the twilight fading. For the huddle of warmth at the eye of the storm. For the room at the end of the couch with all the feverish cousins. For the eloquence of silence in the wake of ferocity. For tender care. For sweet triumphant justice.
For the enraptured.
We are all poets. Troubadours of love. Now write me yours. Write us ours. And always, always try to go in the unbroken strength of peace.
So beautiful and so sad. I felt that emptiness when the girl chose to stay. And I love this line: "For the room at the end of the couch with all the feverish cousins."Delete
Sigh... another remarkable word painting from you... a story seasoned well, with just the right words. My favorite line: "This world. It’s sumptuous. It’s freighted. Wherever you can, cook things in the surplus juices of the last ingredient."Delete
Props for Mr. Mader's lead story. Love that last line...chilling.ReplyDelete
Brutal and honest; heart rending.Delete
(sharing one I wrote for Christmas and posted on my timeline... it'll be a re-run for some of you. Running low on electricity because of all the clouds, so my writing has been with pen and paper, and not easily copyable.)ReplyDelete
It was Christmas, 1981 or 1982, I’m no longer sure which. I was driving back to Denver after spending the day with my parents.
It was not a Norman Rockwell Christmas. I took my Mom for a drive, out to see the farm I grew up on, and to reminisce about past holidays.
And then, I spit out the lines I’d practiced for a month or two. “Mom, you know how Dad’s always asking when I’m going to bring home a girl for you to meet? I’m not, Mom. I’m gay.”
We sat in the car for a couple hours, crying, with her trying to convince me I was wrong, that I couldn’t be gay; that I didn’t want to spend eternity in hell, separated from her and the family.
Then we went back to the house for dinner. She’d made me swear not to tell my father until we could talk more.
Dinner was quiet. Dad asked Mom why her eyes were red. She made some excuse. She didn’t have to try hard. We’d lost my oldest brother a few Christmases before, and his death still weighed heavy on us all.
I helped clean up after dinner and made my excuses, too. I wanted to get back home before it got too late. I had a four-hour trip ahead of me.
Dad shook my hand, Mom hugged me and whispered that she’d pray for me.
It was seven or eight by the time I hit the interstate highway. And then it was my turn to cry. How could I have told her on Christmas Day? How could I shatter her dreams? How could I disappoint her?
There was snow that night, not so much as to be dangerous, but I needed to pay attention, and not get wrapped up in all my regrets. A gusty cold wind swept across the highway.
I turned the radio on for the noise. About halfway home, I noticed I was having a hard time seeing the road. I looked down at the dashboard, and it looked like those lights were dimming, too.
There aren’t a lot of towns on the plains, and there are fewer that have actual service stations. I took the next exit, hoping, but knowing my luck wasn’t going to be good.
I made it to a station that was closed, but it had a pay phone. No cellphones in those days. I found the emergency number in the glove box; it was a rental car. Then I searched my pockets for change. One quarter.
I zipped up my coat and faced the cold wind. Dialed the number on the payphone and listened to the recorded voice tell me how important my call was to them, blah, blah, blah. My hands were going numb. A very tired voice came on the line and I got to explain my situation. She estimated it’d be about two hours before a tow truck could get there. It was a holiday, she reminded me.
I got back in the car, wishing I’d brought a book or something. Instead, all I had were my regrets and guilt. By the time the tow truck driver got there, my handkerchief was sopping wet.
I got out, shook his hand, and thanked him for coming. He grinned, and said “They’re paying me time! It’s no trouble!”
In a few minutes, we were all hooked up, and I was sitting in the cab with him, ready for the two-hour drive to Denver.
“Helluva day to have car problems,” he said, shrugging off his jacket.
“Yeah, helluva day all around.”
“My name’s Rex.”
“I’m Leland. But you already knew that from the paperwork.”
He had an easy laugh. I took a good look at him as we got back on the interstate. Red beard and mustache, nice smile, and I guessed either blue or green eyes; not enough light to tell. And a wedding ring I saw when I looked at his large hands on the wheel.
So much for luck.
[continued in first comment]
We tried small talk for a while, and he tried a few jokes, but my heart wasn’t in the conversation. I kept thinking about what I’d done to Mom and what a jerk and failure I was. I went quiet, and he didn’t interrupt my thoughts.Delete
And then he did. “You wanna talk about it?”
“I don’t have a degree or anything, but you’re upset about something.”
I took a deep breath. Tell the whole story and out myself to a big beefy tow truck driver? What if he gets pissed off and dumps me on the side of the road? The rental car company is paying him, not me.
Another deep breath. “Yeah, okay, but remember you asked.” And I poured the whole story out to him. By the time I was done, we were getting close to Denver. He took an exit, and pulled into a Denny’s.
“I could use some coffee, and I bet you could, too.”
I realized that I’d just been running my mouth on and on, and he’d only been nodding and grunting to show he was listening.
“You’re a good listener.”
“I’m the youngest of five brothers. I didn’t learn to talk till I was four.” And again with that laugh.
We had our coffee and got back on the road. He dropped the car at the rental place and offered me a ride home. “No charge,” he said, and back in the truck we went.
“Look,” he said. “I won’t say I understand about being gay. One of my brothers says he is, too. But it seems to me like your parents raised you to be your own man, not to hide in a closet or whatever. Be something, do something to make you proud, and I’ll bet your mom will be proud, too. She wants you to be happy. All moms want their sons to be happy. Best thing you can do is what makes you happy, for you and for her.”
And then we were at my apartment building. I thought about inviting him in, and then thought he’d think I had alternative reasons, and then I didn’t know what to do. I just sat there like an idiot.
He got out of the truck, walked around to my side and opened the door. He helped me out of the truck. Like a date, I thought to myself.
The wind blew around us, and I looked in his eyes. Green, I decided, though the street lights weren’t conducive to color differentiation. And then his big muscular arms wrapped me in a hug.
“You’re gonna be okay,” he whispered in my ear. “It’ll all work out.”
“Thanks,” I said. I hugged him back, and then he was gone. I memorized the phone number on the side of the truck, and wrote it down when I got into my apartment.
I slept well that night, and in the morning, I called my mom and told her I made it home okay. Then I dialed the towing company’s number, I don’t know why, maybe to ask him out to lunch, or maybe to ask to meet his gay brother.
I asked the lady who answered if I could speak to Rex. She paused. “Honey, we don’t have anybody named Rex here.”
“Sure you do. He got called out to pick me up in the middle of nowhere last night.”
“Honey, I sign the paychecks here, and I’m telling you I’ve never written one out to anybody named Rex. And we didn’t have any call outs yesterday.”
I hung up, without even saying thanks. “Nicely played, God,” I said to myself. “Nicely played.”
To this day, whenever I see a tow truck, I look at the driver, expecting to see that red beard, to hear that easy laugh. If you see him, will you tell him thanks for me? Will you tell him I’m happy?
I love this. Thank you.Delete
Do you recall that gift I wrote you back
when I was a good guy and not some fool.
Or do you think I’m just a clueless hack,
despite that piece you considered a jewel?
I wish I could still weave such lovely odes
but I seem to have lost that ability.
They’d flow from my heart and soul by the loads
and you loved my poetic facility.
But those days are gone, returning no more
like the friendship we shared like no other.
Necessities fall from where my heart tore,
each poem bloody Invention’s mother.
I’ll never admit you were ever my muse,
but for some things I wrote, you lit the fuse.
Beautiful sonnet, my friend. And filled with sadness.Delete